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Breaking down how men’s soccer, women’s soccer and field hockey all earned national rankings

The trio of Wildcat teams all landed in the top-25 this week.

Northwestern Athletics - Twitter

With football season underway, the focus for many Northwestern sports fans has undoubtedly shifted to the gridiron. Unfortunately for those fans, the start of this season has left fans doubting that the level of success for Northwestern football will be very high this year. While that has some feeling disappointed, not all hope is lost in this fall sports season due to high levels of play being shown by a few of the other Wildcats’ teams that have each of them ranked as top-20 teams in the nation. Among those teams are field hockey, as well as the men’s and women’s soccer teams. This week, we take a deeper look at each of these squads and showcase what has led to their success thus far, starting with field hockey.

Field hockey - National Ranking No. 3 (6-1)

Key Wins- No. 5 Duke, No. 15 Boston College, No. 19 UMass, No. 20 Indiana

Routinely one of the top programs in the nation over the past four years, the program that has finished as national champions and national runner-ups the past two seasons, is proving once again that they are a threat for the title. After dropping their first match of the season to Louisville (now ranked No. 1 in the nation), the Wildcats have won their last six outings, four of which having been against other ranked programs, including capturing a tough top-5 win against another national title contender in Duke.

Even more impressive is how convincing these wins against ranked opponents have been, beating UMass and Indiana by a combined score of 8-0 in the past two games. If you stretch it back even further, the team has outscored their opponents 13-0 in their last four contests behind the strength of stellar defensive play. The team is rounding into form at the perfect time, as plenty of top teams await Northwestern in Big Ten play as well as a couple of tough games against Penn and Princeton in non-conference play. Despite the tough schedule, all early returns suggest that the Wildcats should be able to weather that storm, so if you’re looking to root for a team with championship aspirations, this squad is the one for you.

Women’s Soccer- National Ranking No. 18 (6-0-2)

Key Wins - at Virginia Tech

Men’s Soccer- National Ranking No. 19 (6-0-1)

Key Wins - vs. UIC

These two teams have followed similar paths this season to their respective top-20 rankings, so we’re going to take a look at them side-by-side.

For starters, let’s look at the season of the women’s soccer team. While not a perennial contender like the field hockey program, the team took a huge leap last season, making it all the way to The Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the ‘Cats are starting to show that it was no fluke. Through eight matches this season, they are unbeaten. Northwestern’s most recent win, a tight match against Virginia Tech in a tough road environment only further proves that the team is to be taken seriously this season. What makes this success even more interesting is that the Wildcats have been winning these games using something of a by-committee approach. The squad has four players with four or more goals this season and six players with multiple goals, led by senior forward Ella Hase with six. The ability to have multiple key players will allow for a certain level of consistency moving forward throughout the season.

On the other side of things, you have the men’s soccer team. From a team routinely at the top, to a team on the upswing, and finally arriving at a team that has come seemingly out of nowhere, the Northwestern men’s soccer team has shocked everybody to make a rare appearance in the national rankings. The men’s soccer team hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014 and hasn’t won a game in the tournament since 2013, but the Wildcats are trying to change that this season after a hot start that has seen them go unbeaten in their first seven matches. They have gotten to this point by doing what good teams do: simply taking care of opponents that they should beat. Northwestern does have a quality win against a strong UIC squad, but in the rest of their wins, the team has proven that they can take care of business in games that maybe wouldn’t have been wins in past seasons. That should give them plenty of confidence moving forward into Big Ten play.

Speaking of conference play, that’s where both of these teams will be starting this upcoming week. When you compare expectations to where they were at the start of the season, they’re much higher now than they were then. Of course, the Big Ten is loaded with quality teams on both sides of the sport, but doubt these groups of Wildcats at your own peril.

Keep an eye out

All in all, it’s a good time to be a Northwestern sports fan, even if football has you down. While there is still hope that the football team turns it around for a successful season, these other teams are proving that they have you covered if you need your fix of winning. So make sure to keep a close eye on these teams to see if the field hockey team can fulfill the goal of another national title and to see if the men’s and women’s soccer teams can prove to be true contenders for the Big Ten crown.